The Social Innovation Podcast thoroughly enjoyed its conversation with ShuFen Lin, an ex-startup founder deeply interested in artificial intelligence and climate change.

Some of the topics that ShuFen discussed:

  • Working from home and work/life integration
  • A work-life that encompassed corporate, startups, and back to corporate
  • Worked in the telco business for 15 years 
  • Left corporate life to start Gluu – a marketplace for trading mobile data
  • How she got interested in artificial intelligence
  • The implications of AI and our own awareness of its implementation
  • The importance of AI literacy and personal responsibility
  • The International Energy Agency reported that carbon emissions dropped 5% to 6% during full lockdown
  • Seeing the clear, blue sky
  • Suppliers, the supply chain, and one’s carbon footprint
  • FinTech startups and sustainability
  • Consumer demand driving product supply

Other titles we considered for this episode:

  1. It’s More About Work-Life Integration
  2. It Has Given Me a Lot of Flexibility
  3. We’ve Seen Businesses That Thrive on Lack of Literacy
  4. Commercial Production Is Driven By Consumer Demand
  5. I Feel Like I Am Starting from Zero Again
  6. The common Denominator I Found Was the Mindset

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:02
Michael Waitze Media…Telling Asia’s Stories.

Okay, we’re on. Hi. This is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Social Innovation Podcast. Today we are joined by Shu Fen Lin, an ex-startup founder, a mentor to startups and somebody deeply interested in artificial intelligence and climate change.

ShuFen, it’s great to have you on the show. Thank you so much for taking the time and doing this today. How are you doing, by the way?

ShuFen Lin 0:34
Hi, thank you for having me. I’m good. I’m good. Yeah. Happy to be on the show.

Michael Waitze 0:40
A little bit busy these days?

ShuFen Lin 0:42
“A little bit” is an understatement. You know, we all tried to get by at well, you just seem to get busier and busier.

Michael Waitze 0:50
Yeah, it’s so funny, right? This whole work-from-home thing or hybrid work, I guess was supposed to give us more time. But at the end of the day, like people ask me, What day is today? Monday? Hey, how was your weekend? And I don’t know what to answer. Like, I just shrugged my shoulders in a way no,

ShuFen Lin 1:04
totally right. You know, the day has turned into night. And it’s all melded together. But I suppose the core still remains right how to manage this is it’s more about work-life integration, I suppose then balance anymore.

Michael Waitze 1:17
So I’m so glad you said this to me. I’m trying to remember who the other person was who said that. But I did a whole show where we talked about this idea of not even work-life balance. But this whole idea that like your work and your life is kind of becoming the same thing. If you’re doing something that you love, right? You kind of becomes the same thing. And then you have to figure out a way to integrate it into your life as opposed to balance it with your life. Is that fair?

ShuFen Lin 1:39
I’m not sure about fair, but that’s kind of like the way that I, you know, I’ve done it, especially in the last five years, my days as a startup, you know, as a startup founder is your own business. Yeah, everything is personal. There is no such thing as work and life, you know, I’m thinking about new ideas. I’m thinking about how to who to talk to how to get money when I’m showering, dinner. So it’s kind of like, I like it, because it’s given me a lot of flexibility.

Michael Waitze 2:05
Do you ever, like stop in the middle of something that you’re doing that feels like personal like having dinner with a friend or, you know, talking to your family and just think, Oh, I just had an idea. And then just like back out of that thing and write it down? Do you know what I mean?

ShuFen Lin 2:17
Totally, it happens to me all the time, my friends will go there. She’s in her own thoughts. Again, She’s talking to herself, you know, you just have to give her five seconds and get snap her out of it. Yeah, so I like work from home. I like this new new way of working. Because I feel that it gives me a lot, a lot more flexibility. And out of my stat app, and I’m actually working for a Singapore FinTech Association also. So back to you know, corporate life. And I like that, you know, I have that home time when I’m working at home, I can take time off when I need to, you know, do a short meditation, you know, a quick yoga just to get back in shape mentally. And you know, I’m still doing stuff at night. And it’s okay.

Michael Waitze 2:59
It’s weird, right? When I was at Goldman Sachs, I sometimes felt like if I could just get up and take a walk, really just like one Walker on the trading floor, stretch my legs kind of free my mind a little bit that it would have been much better for me and for the work that I was doing. And yet that was just not possible, right? Because you’ve got to be in that chair at all times. And I think it’s better for work if you can sort of take like, even just a three minute break. Yeah.

ShuFen Lin 3:22
Yeah, totally. Is that what you have now? Is that how you do do your stuff now.

Michael Waitze 3:27
So even when I’m editing audio, right, I’ll take I’ll edit like five to seven minutes of audio, just so I feel like I’ve accomplished something, and I’ll get up and walk around. And then I’ll come back. And then I’ll do more, I get to 15 minutes or 20 minutes, I’ll be like, Okay, did that, take a walk around, and then try to finish the whole thing and feel like that was really productive. So yes, I do that all the time. Actually.

ShuFen Lin 3:47
Totally agree. I feel that it’s much more productive.

Michael Waitze 3:50
Yeah. And to be fair, yesterday, I went to a restaurant sat outside, I had a meeting at three I got there at noon. And I just sat there with my laptop and cranked out a couple of documents that I owed, people answered a couple of emails for people, you know, while I was having like my soda water, and frankly, a couple of oysters, but I was still working. Nice. Nice. That’s a nice context, right to be productive. Yeah, it’s hard not to like oysters.

ShuFen Lin 4:16
It’s hot. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t

Michael Waitze 4:20
know that I can hang out with. Can I give a little bit more of your background just for some context so I can understand like how we got to where we are today?

ShuFen Lin 4:29
Sure, sure. I actually started my professional life in a corporate I spent more than 15 years in a local telco. So that was kind of like one of my first jobs. So I’ve done everything from marketing to product development across the product, you know, mobile, internet and media services. When I last left, I was basically running the broadband and media business. And so that was 20. I think I left in 2016. Okay, little tired and wanting to do something different in life, right? A little jaded. And of course, the first thing that you do when you’re jaded and tire is to go start a startup, right?

Michael Waitze 5:10
That’s the best solution to that. Yeah, maybe I don’t know, I don’t

ShuFen Lin 5:14
know what, but I’m kind of like this, I tend to kind of jump into things without really appreciating the full depth of it. And then kind of discovering that that as I go along. So in 2017, I started a business with my partner, my co founder. So this is glue. So it’s like, it’s related to what we’re what I used to do. It’s basically like a marketplace for trading mobile data. So it’s a solution that enables especially developing markets in countries where the infrastructure is not as great in access. So the problem we’re solving is internet access, right? More than providing internet. So everybody talks about all we are when we’re more than 90%. Wired battery, actually, we’ve got 95% connectivity, right? But the real impact to the people is, are they able to get access easily. So that was the problem we were trying to solve. In, especially in Indonesia, the application we have allows you as a person to source for internet from your nearby devices. So that really does the securing the connection, authenticating your connection and sort of matchmaking suppliers of connectivity to people who need it? So instead of a typical b2c relationship, you’re talking about the C to C relationship? Yeah, marketplace. So with that we hoped to improve internet access. So what

Michael Waitze 6:35
does that mean that if I had a phone and I had like, let’s say, an unlimited data plan, I could sign up for glue. And then if you had like a prepaid plan, and you needed data, I could give you access in a way that was secure. And somehow some of us would get paid for that.

ShuFen Lin 6:49
Yes, that’s totally just it. If let’s say you are using a prepaid card, that doesn’t have access, right, that’s not access. And it happens a lot. Yeah, all over Indonesia, right. Or even in other countries. I mean, we’ve spoken to people from Thailand, and India and Vietnam, who actually told us that, you know, your model actual
ly has potential in our country, because the conditions are quite similar. So then you will be in a place where you can source for connectivity. And then what we do is to in a marketplace is to, you know, we have a digital currency that allows you to trade and then we involve sort of businesses and brands to try and come in and sponsor the access. So that to make it you know, easier for for people to be sharing internet access.

Michael Waitze 7:30
Wow, sorry. That’s a great idea. Thank you. Thank me. I’m glad you think so. Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that in that context. So like, I didn’t understand how it could be sponsored and stuff, either. But that’s kind of neat, right? Because I’ve been, even on a business trip. I’ve been in Singapore. And just thought, I wish I could get connectivity somewhere. But I haven’t signed up for it yet. And I’m like, somewhere where I don’t have access to, you know, going to 711 or buying a prepaid card or whatever. And if I could just get it off of somebody else’s phone who’s not using it. I’m happy to pay for it. I didn’t know that that existed. That’s super cool, actually. And so so you’re not doing that anymore. Did you sell that? Did you just stop doing it? Like what happened?

ShuFen Lin 8:09
We did. We did. I mean, the glue was acquired. So we exited in May 2021. So valuation wise, personally, I think it’s a bit too early for the founders. But we think that given you know, given what happened during COVID, given the stage that it is in the investors who have taken it over, have the network the resources, and they are based in Indonesia, this is a you know FinTech group, they have that network and resources to take it, you know, through its through its next lap.

Michael Waitze 8:36
Really interesting. He’s

ShuFen Lin 8:36
the best. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 8:37
yeah. super interesting. Can I ask you this, though? Because you were in the telco business during a really interesting period of time. Don’t you think? I don’t want to ask this sort of generic question of what changed. But I mean, between the time that you joined, and 15 years later, a telco must have looked completely different, though.

ShuFen Lin 8:54
Yes, it does. It looked different. When I love, it’s looking different now.

Michael Waitze 8:58
For sure, for sure, right? And then I guess you can take some of that stuff with you and then apply it. It’s just interesting that you were there when that happened, right? Because it means that just because new stuff happens doesn’t mean that whatever business you’re in, has to die or get replaced by something else, as long as you can adapt and be agile enough to figure out what that looks like. No.

ShuFen Lin 9:16
Yeah, I mean, it’s all about I mean, digital transformation is all about positioning, and sort of revoking the value that you are giving to your customers. Because I to me, that drives everything who your customers are, who your stakeholders are, how much value you’re giving, and how much you can take that, you know, to your p&l, your bottom line.

Michael Waitze 9:36
Yeah. How did you get involved in? Or why did you start caring about artificial intelligence and climate change? Because it doesn’t seem directly related to the stuff that you’re doing before? It doesn’t have to be at all right? I’m just curious how that transition took place.

ShuFen Lin 9:51
I’ve always been interested in AI. And during my startup days, we were doing data analytics. Okay. So you know, I spoke to a lot of startups, a lot of partners stakeholders, I started reading about this. So I guess, when I was looking at data analytics, and it really opened my eyes to the potential AI, it’s all about data that the machines are getting from people from the environments, and how they use that to make decisions on our behalf. So I’ve always been interested in AI. And and, you know, sustainability, because the I feel right now, at this point, these are the two big forces that will shape individuals, as well as businesses, and it cuts across, right, it cuts across all sectors. And I just feel I mean, this is my own personal view, the the implications, and the way the tech is going is much faster than our level of awareness and how much we know.

Michael Waitze 10:50
So what do you what do you mean by that? Sorry, go ahead.

ShuFen Lin 10:54
So that, I think is an issue because, and I also did a mini master’s program with NTU, as I exited, in May, because I was so mentally, you know, as a startup, as a, when you’re in your startup, your mind is constantly working all day, all night. And after exit, nothing to think about, I was like, No, this, I’m going to get depressed. So I was looking for, for things to do and decided to take a course. And the course was really useful. So it’s aI ethics and governance. And basically, it’s all about the ethical issues about the deployment of AI things like, you know, being responsible being transparent. So it occurred to me that the tech is moving so fast, but the level of literacy and awareness might not be catching up. Again, I say it’s my view, in terms of the awareness. I mean, if you think about AI is all over you. And we’re already using it. Whether we know, we’re using it as another another question. If we look at our phones, you know, when you’re typing messages, and this predictive text is learning about us learning about how you speak what you’re going to say, right? It’s predicting text for you to craft your messages quicker. Yeah, you look at Google Maps, right? You look at social media, right? What you’re reading on your feeds, these days, everybody’s getting your, you know, what we need in life through apps, right? If you think about the recommendations that is being made for you, they are all powered by AI. The question though, is, if you didn’t have AI, you would be have a myriad of options. With AI, you have all these options narrowed down for you, based on their understanding of you.

Michael Waitze 12:31
Can you just explain that again for a second. So without artificial intelligence, you’d still have a bunch of options. That’s very easy to understand. But you’re suggesting that the artificial intelligence in the machine learning that’s personalized for you, is now saying, pick some standard deviation? Maybe it’s one, maybe it’s two standard deviations of information that are this way, right off the curve. They’re just not relevant to you. So I’m going to narrow it down to these things for you. And then you get to choose from those, I’m going to pick a number 510. I don’t really care what it is, that AI is actually eliminating things as well.

ShuFen Lin 13:07
Because AI is about automating, I mean, if you talk about automating is to create more convenience. For you. Okay, yeah, in that sense, you you feel I think the initial sort of feeling might be Oh, cool, you know, when you’re typing your email and text, right? Oh, cool. I’m just gonna say this, quickly send it up, oh, I’ve, my options are now up to three, I’m just gonna choose one or three. When you look at your social media feeds, you’re reading what has been sort of curated for you, right? The social media is AI. So of course, it’s more convenient. It’s what intellectually on social media, you could go into an echo chamber, because you’ve been reading certain articles with certain keywords or following certain groups, right, I’m going to assume that you like these things. Right? Right. You’re not getting exposed to an alternative view? Is that representative of what’s happening? I’m not sure. But it’s definitely what the AI has curated for you. That is sort of what you should see. Right? So these are what I mean by the decisions that are already made for us because of all these recommendations and durations. And and these are made by machines.

Michael Waitze 14:11
Because you said the course you took was I’m going to read it artificial intelligence, ethics and governance, right. So artificial intelligence, ethics and governance. The eth
ics part of the governance are actually really interesting, right? So learning about how artificial intelligence work is the beginning of this literacy, right? How does that mechanism actually happen? But what are the ethical concerns around it and the governance concerns around it? Because for this exact reason, that you mentioned, like if you’re in an echo chamber, it means that maybe just if you just branch this out, like in from a bigger perspective, that you would not have known because if you had not expressed an interest in AI prior to taking this course it at NTU right that you may not have actually been offered that as a as a possibility. It would have gone back to maybe telco stuff or internet connectivity or Internet availability, right. So the equity hammer can actually at some level be a little bit dangerous because you lose the ability to see and learn things that you don’t already know about. And it amplifies the things about what you already know, right?

ShuFen Lin 15:10
Yeah, yep, totally. So I think because of how it’s how it’s permeating into our lives, it’s everyone’s responsibility to kind of decide, right, I want to find out about it based on this is my frequently used App. And this is I’m going to spend so much time reading the feeds on my social media, as if this is the news of the week. Right? Right. And I need to know, how it’s being done. And you know, how is it been curated? Mindset wise, you don’t sit back and expect there’s not like an assumption that this is going to be the fairest representation. More like to question what’s behind it. So that that’s the literacy that I was referring. Yeah, it’s

Michael Waitze 15:51
really tricky, though, right? Because, and you made this point, too, when I’m using Gmail to send an email to you at the end, it knows that I always write like, Thank you Best regards, Michael. So if I just type the th, it automatically finishes with the thank you, I go down to the next couple lines, and I type the B, it just goes best regardless get so convenient. And yet, for those of us that know what’s happening, in a way can be like ethically scary, right? Because you know that you’ll use that convenience to make your life more efficient. That’s the automation that’s really great. But if you’re not aware, like you are that you’re in an echo chamber, you actually have to actively go out and search for other information and for conflicting information so that you can continue to learn about things about what you’re not already aware that you can make sure that the things you already believe are not only being amplified, but that you’re learning alternate views. And then you can play them off each other. So you can critically think about the things that you’re reading and seeing and hearing to make sure you’re making the right decisions. Yeah,

ShuFen Lin 16:55
yep. Yep. Totally, especially in this era of fake news, isn’t it?

Michael Waitze 16:59
Yeah. I mean, that’s the whole point. Right? Of course, then

ShuFen Lin 17:02
the question I always ask is, when somebody says that this is fake news, and this is the truth, and who is who is this authority? And this person who’s saying that this is this is fake news. Yeah, exactly. On what basis? And and I suppose is that line of questioning that I feel that is kind of like a personal responsibility? That’s illiteracy, I suppose is that I feel that sense of awareness at the individual level that we all should understand.

Michael Waitze 17:28
Right. And I mean, at some level, look, we can put blame on other entities, regardless of what those entities are. But at the end of the day, we have to take responsibility, I think, on an individual basis to try to understand, which is why the literacy thing becomes so important. And I want to make some connectivity to some other conversations that I have. We talk a lot about financial literacy, we talk a lot about financial inclusion, right? Because we see tons of companies in Indonesia, in Vietnam, in Thailand, building businesses that are for the masses, so that that idea about financial literacy, and the ability to profit from compounding and a bunch of other things that fintechs are trying to accomplish, are out there for everybody. But without the literacy. It doesn’t matter which product I offer you if you don’t understand it, particularly in its context, right. And I was having a conversation this morning with with a woman in California, and we talked about nutritional literacy and food literacy, right, because she’s building a company that is dealing with novel foods. So it was a fascinating conversation. But I think this whole idea about literacy, as it pertains to ESG, as it pertains to artificial intelligence, and climate change is really, really important. And I’m curious, like, what is the best way you think not just the best way? What’s a good way to create that literacy or help create it?

ShuFen Lin 18:47
You know, in the past, we have seen examples of businesses that thrive based on lack of literacy. Yeah, for sure. For sure. Right. Yeah. I mean, in the short term, it does help you hedge funds,

Michael Waitze 18:58
do this, right. The less information you have, the more information they have, the more trading profits they can make.

ShuFen Lin 19:03
Yeah. And if I make, you know, connection to sustainable business practice, go ahead. It might look good. In the short term, you’re gonna hit, you know, targets. I mean, you can scale and all that, but it’s, I find that long term sustained sustainability is often a question. I mean, if you look at the past crisis, financial crisis has to happen. But I think what happened in the last two years, like with COVID, right, there is a lot more talk a lot more awareness about sustainable practices.

Michael Waitze 19:33
What do you think COVID brought that out?

ShuFen Lin 19:35
I suppose. Because just in 2020, I was reading IAEA report, International Energy Agency, the year where the whole world went into lockdown. Carbon emission went down five to 6%. Amazing, amazing. We have using something they haven’t haven’t happened for decades. And then last year, you know, we started to like, you know, have a method and approach of dealing with COVID and the We have partial opening up on economy. I mean, economy has to go on. Right. So I’m seeing that the forecast for 2021. They are saying that it’s expected to go back like 5%. So whatever, you know, progress we made in 2020 will be wiped out because of the increase in activities and emissions need for electricity needs to fall by what 50 60% In order to meet our target of being net zero by 2050. To limit the temperature increase the Paris trade agreement. I’m just thinking that because of all these, you know, this cop 26, there’s all these talks from the government. I mean, you one can argue, yes. greenwashing by, you know, a lot of agencies and a lot of organizations. But I think the other side of it, and I like to think of it as the cup half full, is there’s a lot more awareness. I mean, it’s not good. greenwashing is certainly not good. No. But I think the inclination to kind of lean in towards being green to explore is, I think, a positive direction for businesses and individuals.

Michael Waitze 21:05
I went into lockdown here on I remember the date, march 18 2020. And I didn’t literally come out of my condo, except for like going to Family Mart or going to a supermarket until the end of June. So almost three months. Yeah, it was that long. And I remember what I actually came out on at the beginning of July. And looking at the sky. Remember, I live in Bangkok. I live in a big city. And I think it’s true of cities everywhere, particularly cities and countries that have a manufacturing pace. And I remember looking up and thinking that’s what a blue sky looks like, like I could see for real distance. And I hadn’t seen that in a while. And I just thought maybe we should take off a month every year. I mean, that actually, because I don’t think that like growth for growth’s s
ake, is really necessary? No,

ShuFen Lin 21:53
no, I think you nailed it. Because all of us, you know, saw what sort of a world with less activity can be we traveled less? Yeah, I mean, in Singapore, because we can travel, you start to I mean, samples a small country, you start to discover your neighborhoods, you start to discover, oh, actually, I have a bunch of eateries I can I can eat here. There’s this part that I never knew I could explore. Right. So I think that people start to see and appreciate the environment. And you know, all these news about carbon emissions dropping about, you know, I remember seeing posts on social media where there were pictures were in India for once in decades see the backdrop of the mountains, right, where they’re living, because otherwise, you know, everyday they were living in smoke. Right. So the question for me is, where do we go from here? Yeah, yeah, in terms of, you know, awareness in terms of literacy. I mean, I just read that in a supermarket. More and more companies, food manufacturers are starting to like in UK, and in Germany, they’re starting to put carbon labels. So you have an awareness of if you buy this, you know, pack of biscuits or buy this pack of noodles, right? Because the production of this often involves an entire economy. Right? Right. So you could have this carbon footprint, but what about your supply your supply chain? What about your suppliers? So that I feel it’s a big step, right, as a consumer and I have a choice when I buy products? If I go to a shelf? And I’m looking for see biscuits or any kind of product, right? Would that make a difference?

Michael Waitze 23:29
Yeah, and here’s the thing, though, right? We saw it first. And a lot of people feel like if they just change the way they drive or buy an electric car, climate change solved, right? Not sure it’s not a bad thing to do, everyone should probably drive an electric car or have an electric vehicle at some level. But it’s not solving all of climate change, or all of ESG problems, because a lot of these issues, like you say, are in the supply chain, or in land use and other big problems that needs to get solved as well. But what the electric car business proved, I think, at some level, right, because Tesla came along, and people have been able to build electric cars for a long time. But Tesla created this demand change that actually woke up BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, Ford, and all these Toyota all these big car companies that could have done it on their own. And they said, Wait a second, that’s working, the demand curve is changing. And if the demand curve changes, I don’t want to be out of the loop. We can do the same thing with food or with T shirts or anything. So I think that you talked about mindset before. But if we can change the mindset of consumers, individual consumers, to make sure that they’re buying things or demanding things that are carbon neutral or carbon positive, that the manufacturers will automatically change because they’ll have no one to sell to. Does that make sense?

ShuFen Lin 24:48
It makes sense. Totally. I just think that we are such an interconnected ecosystem. We can say that we look at the carbon emissions chart and we say oh look, you know 35% 40% is coming from industrial use cases, you know, they are the ones emitting electricity. And it’s because of generation of electricity, right. But at the end of the day, commercial production is driven by consumer demand. Yeah. So we’re kind of like in a symbiotic relationship in this ecosystem, we all exist on Earth, and we take from the environment. So to me for the goal that we have to achieve to be net neutral in 2050. And as with human nature, I mean, what we’re seeing right now, the governments all over the world are doing something. And it’s coming down, right, it’s coming down to the big organizations who actually now regularly regulators to provide climate disclosures. Right. But not maybe not down to the smaller businesses, and not to startups and, you know, carbon taxes and everyone yet, but it’s going to come, it’s going to come and I believe that the curve is going to be some scurrying, you know, towards the, the timeline. And in my, in my work, I talk to a lot of FinTech businesses. And my message is, I feel that being literate and being aware and doing something about it now is going to give businesses an edge. More than older, something extra that I have to do. This is not my regulation, this is not an obligation. But it could mean new business opportunities, you know, as supply chains get affected is going to come down, it could mean that you’re qualified to bid for certain contracts, or it could mean that because you are well placed, you might be considered for certain certain opportunities, and it’s something you have to do anyway. Yeah. So

Michael Waitze 26:29
I was again, I was talking to the founder of turtle trade, so fangirling on the phone this morning. And, you know, they’re building a headquarters in Davis, California. They’re building something in Boston, and she said, everything we do, we think about sustainability before we do it. And because we’re greenfields company, we’re doing it from scratch. So there’s no legacy thing we have to fix. And you’re right. I talked about this in the context of diversity and diversity of hiring and stuff as well. You can’t bolt it on later, you can’t hire 100 of the same people no matter who they are, no matter how amazing they are, and then have the 100 and first person be your first shot at diversity. Yeah, right. It’s I think it’s the same thing with ESG. No, yeah, yep, totally.

ShuFen Lin 27:11
I mean, where I work now, what we try to do is to is to meet the gap, because of the, I think, because the big organizations tend to have a team of sustainability MBAs to help them through the process. And there’s really a lot to get through, like even calculating your carbon impact, or the impact is the impact of your company, your business, your employees, your supply chain is not easy. I mean, going through some of the ESG checklist. So I feel that the good thing is there’s a lot more awareness, there’s a lot more interest and inclination. So is the impetus to move.

Michael Waitze 27:48
Yeah, so we talked at the beginning about you mentoring startups, right. And you alluded to it a little bit. But I’m curious what that conversation is like, because here’s the here’s the vision I have, in my mind, you get a bunch of gals together, like who used to work at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, and they have an idea to do financial inclusion, and then they get together to build a fintech. And somehow, you end up mentoring them. But their idea is just about financial literacy, financial inclusion, and you know, building a modern day financial services company, and then they meet you and you say, This is great. I love this idea. It’s a great way to solve this problem. But how about the sustainability part of this? What’s the normal response? And I know it’s not normal for him. But what’s the aggregate sort of response you get? Is it like, Huh? Or is there already a thought processes happening? Because I think there’s a generational change taking place. I’m curious what you see

ShuFen Lin 28:39
a mix really, because, as with I mean, if you talk to startups, they are really in a sort of depends on the stage that they’re in. In a scaling startup, they’re really in a stage of prioritizing resources. They don’t have low money, they’re trying to raise funds, they’re probably right, prioritizing it to meet their KPIs. It’s not an easy conversation, it’s a conversation about showing them the big picture. Now you have a chance to sort of build it right, right to sort of build built it into your architecture, built it into your business model, built it into your business index, at core so that you can you can get that that itch. Sometimes I hear Oh, yeah. You know, we don’t really have to make that disclosure yet. So it’s not really priority. Interesting. Definitely. Yes, it is very, very important. But you know,
we need to start that journey. We do need to get resources to help us get there literacy, and which which factors are material for us. And often the smaller like SMEs don’t have that they don’t have this resource apart. I mean, that association is what we try to meet the gap that we try to meet.

Michael Waitze 29:38
Do you feel like when you look look at what you’re doing today? And you look back on your career, so like if I had spoken to the you know, the Polytechnic you I don’t know where you went to school, right or the high school you and said to you, do you think you’ll spend 1515 years working at a telco and then building your own startup and then mentoring people about not just you know, fintechs and startups as well, but also the ESG thing. This is not something you could have predicted. But do you look at that path and think, wow, like I actually have this great body of experience that now allows me to do this thing that I really love doing. Does that make sense? You know what I mean?

ShuFen Lin 30:16
I do look back, like you say, I’m not sure if I had that reaction like, wow,

Michael Waitze 30:22
look, that’s your life. But you know what I mean, right? Sure, sure.

ShuFen Lin 30:24
So I often feel like at this point in my life, I feel like I’m starting from zero again. I mean, I did that corporate journey. Sure. And I started from zero again, right, five, six years ago, when I did this startup. And it wasn’t a space that was different. I’m currently in FinTech, because I used to be in telco and tech in media. And now I’m in FinTech. So I have feel like I’m starting from zero again, but probably not because you know, you have some experience or some context to sort of make it less daunting. But yeah, I never, I never thought that it will be like this, I always thought that it will be incrementally linearly. I really didn’t know myself very well.

Michael Waitze 31:05
It’s like, yeah, 50 or 60 years of incremental change, which is not definitely not happening with you, I guess, the point that I was trying to make is this is that you have an edge, this telco experience, which maybe when you first started didn’t seem like this gigantic edge. But because all of connectivity, all of the internet connectivity is now driven through these telco things, and you were there during that. I don’t want to say transition. But that transformation from just sort of like I’m gonna make a phone call to I’m going to be connected to everything you saw that happen sort of incrementally, that it gives you a view, I think, on not just the power of this incremental change and understanding how technology impacts things, but also the power of connectivity. And FinTech by definition, particularly if it’s a financial inclusion thing, by definition is a connected business. Right? And then this idea of literacy feeds into that as well, because you cannot make the masses literate at anything, if you don’t have a seamless and frictionless way to communicate with them at scale. I just think that that telco experience must come in super handy today, even if you don’t think about it like that, you know what I mean?

ShuFen Lin 32:09
I totally agree, especially, I think of it as the common denominator that I saw there, the transformation process, whether it’s at a telco, I mean, I started the startup to disrupt that. And so then, you know, traditional models, right, the common denominator, I found was the mindset. And I think that it’s not going to be different in other sectors, it’s not going to be different when we think about AI, or the climate change targets that we’re talking about. That change in mindset that has to happen because of the the sheer nature of change that we need to effect because of the timeline that is on us. So I just think that the mindset is so important, how you think of things, which is why I always advocate for literacy. You know, you need to be aware, you need to know, you need to be sort of proactive at the consumer level at the business level. Because I think what you think how you think about things as the consumer influences how you think of it when you go to work, right, when you make decisions as a business leader, as a business decision maker,

Michael Waitze 33:09
That is the perfect thought to end with. I really want to thank you, ShuFen Lin ex-startup founder and mentor to startups and this great interest in artificial intelligence and climate change. Thank you so much for doing this today. I really,

ShuFen Lin 33:23
Thank you Michael. I totally enjoyed our chat today.

EP 48 - ShuFen Lin - An ex-Startup Founder Deeply Interested in AI & Climate Change - It's Everybody's Responsibility

by ShuFen Lin | Social Innovation Podcast